Saturday, February 14, 2009

Boycotting

the day that is today. The day that shan't be named. It's over rated, commercialized, doesn't mean much. Like most things in this country what starts out as a good idea gets grabbed up by some company as a way to sell something, gets completely overblown in the process and makes those of us who don't celebrate that day or who don't have anything to celebrate feel empty and alone.

When I was a teenager I used to like to make cards for this day. They were usually very elaborate. It was fun to do. I thought about it this year... I could still do one. I would have done it in honor of the glass angels... but I don't know.

I don't know why it's bothering me this year more than last year. But looking back it bothered me last year, too. Although there was some drama that kept me focused on other things.

Not that I don't have drama this year. We're still concerned for Poppy. And Cat went into the hospital because he's now completely blocked. I came home last night and knew it was time for him to go; he was sitting on the rug in front of the stove in the dark... not yowling for food or upstairs with the neighbor. When I put catnip into the borrowed carrier, he walked right in and turned around to look at me. "Lets go" his Cat eyes said. He didn't even sniff at the catnip.

The estimate is $1268. Thumbelina drove him and me to the ASPCA and gave me $500 cash. It cost $125 just to walk in the door. They wouldn't touch him or treat him till I gave them the rest of what I had and debited another $130 from my account--half of the high estimate. Thank God SD had paid child support and the bank had posted it. ASPCA wanted me to apply for credit, but I took a look at who the provider of the credit was: GE Money bank, and knew they wouldn't give me shit. I have two store cards with them that aren't being paid. It wasn't going to happen. And I just didn't have it in me to go through the denial. So I called UN. She said she'd take care of it. Cat has adopted her as his other pet and so she's about as attached to him as I am. And sometimes I get occasional bouts of jealousy about that, except Cat always comes home to me, and gets mad at me when I go away. And I know she needs him. But I cried. I owe UN so much money it's ridiculous. But I've paid her back once already... so I guess she knows I'll take care of her when I can.

But I'm just fucking unhappy now.

Despite what I posted yesterday, I was still checked on by my Fabulous friend, and ended up sending messages back and forth till ungodly hours of the morning. But today is not a day I'll spend with him.

We talked about letting the beast loose. I told him it's not that I don't know what I'm walking with and so am afraid to find out... it's that I know exactly what I'm walking with and I can't unleash it without some kind of anchor.

I never wanted to be an artist. I think it started in Junior High, when we got back to this country. Till then, I didn't know anything else, had nothing to compare. We got back to the states in '77 and for the first year my parents kept me out of school. We hung out in the library a lot, making friends with the family of the live-in custodian. There was a boy, Jonathan, who used to come into the library to play chess. I had a mad crush on him. I found out he went to the Junior High up the street. I convinced my father to enroll me there the following school year only to discover Jonathan had left... graduated 8th grade.

I was disappointed... but quickly got over it discovering a whole new world of Pro Keds and colored flare leg Lee jeans and matching plaid shirts, of boys named Rat and Papo and Nicky D. We couldn't afford the Pro Keds or the Lees, and I was teased unmercifully because I wore skippies and straight legged Levis handed down from the kids of the white artists downtown that my parents knew. I didn't press my hair and so even though I rolled it it tended to go it's on way, unlike the other girls who's pressed and bergamotted hair would stay in one place till it rained or they sweated it out.

I enjoyed school. I was a year or two older than most of the kids in my 7th grade class, cuz I had no school records and they didn't know what to do with me. And I was physically tiny compared to them. The administration stuck me in 7th to be safe... and also because my math sucked. My reading though, scored at college level. I spoke standard English. Teachers loved me.

The kids batted me around the way Cat bats a mouse around... never actually hurting it or breaking skin but terrorizing it until it becomes paralyzed with fear. I got jacked up in the staircase just about everyday by Kaye Williams and her ugly friend Tammy who took my quarter just because she could.

But I'm a stubborn bitch, even when I'm afraid. I dug my heels in about the skippies, refusing to buy Pro Keds the next year even when Poppy offered to buy them for me. Refused to wear flare-leg jeans... making my jeans even skinnier by taking in the inseams. In 8th grade everyone else suddenly discovered straight legs, too. In the art class I worked on a portfolio... all through my life in Jamaica and during the transition to New York in 1977 I had always drawn and painted. Usually horses, or elaborate scenes of Native Americans crossing the plains. Looking back on those pictures I was pretty good.

I joined the band in my music class. I'd wanted to play trumpet and enjoyed getting sound out of the thing, but Brother Lee refused to let me mess up my lips and switched me to saxophone. But then the kids discovered I could sing. It happened by accident. There's a tradition in Harlem of the coordinated dance routine. Nowadays it seems to have degenerated into which individual girl can pop the booty the best, but up until recently coordinated dance routines were a big deal. But I couldn't dance... never grasped the steps quickly, always turned the wrong way. So they let me sing while they danced... and the crowd went wild.

In 8th grade I worked on my portfolio for Music and Art, but already my refusal to be an artist, to struggle and be poor was beginning to present itself. Even though I could have had Pro Keds by 8th grade and refused them on principal, it pissed me off that I was teased when I couldn't afford them, and I resolved to never be teased about stuff like that ever. Singers made money. Artists didn't. I stopped drawing.

I got into Music and Art for voice... and my audition was kind of a fluke because on the application I applied for both instrument and voice. Poppy took me to the audition and I sat there with my sax, ready to play. But when they called me, they told me I could only audition for one thing. I chose singing because it was easier. And besides, I could hit the high note and stay in key singing the Star Spangled Banner. They'd have to let me in. They did.

That summer between 8th and 9th grades, I made crocheted kufi's and sold them in front of the Tree of Life on Lenox Avenue and 125th Street. Every dime I saved that summer, I spent on clothes and shoes. I worked on my hard-ass layer, learned not to show fear.

And it worked. Generally, all throughout high school my real life existed on 125th street; my boyfriend, my true friends. But I loved singing and learning about music. At the Semi Annual concerts/exhibitions every year I'd walk around the art on display and feel a slight pang. But I never ever drew anymore and at some point I even convinced myself that I didn't know how.

I graduated High School and went right to work. I never even wrote an essay for college, never even applied for any of the CUNY schools. I knew my parents couldn't afford to send me. I had no concept of what I would want to learn in college anyhow. The guidance counselor at M&A didn't really care much about me... and took my natural stubbornness and fake confidence to heart and didn't make me apply for anything.

I liked making money. I liked shopping. I liked working, even. Initially my plan was to audition for things and sing someplace, but I went to an audition for "Tropicana" that was being produced Maurice Hines--Gregory's younger brother--and I choked. It was the dance music era anyhow and I didn't like singing that stuff, so eventually I stopped singing. The jobs I had got progressively less creative, and I made more and more more money.

And then I met DC. I met him cuz he was the friend of a high school friend and "flyguy" who I dated briefly once we left high school. Flyguy dumped me and in revenge I went out with DC. DC called himself an artist. I introduced him to Poppy's friend and my future mentor, who encouraged DC to take graphic design classes.

DC had issues though. He was a passable artist and illustrator and largely self-taught. But he was a hustler and he partied a little too much. Initially our partnership was based on money... I bought him shirts and he painted on them, and we sold them for Harlem Day. We made a lot of money... the shirts sold out. We started dating. And I enjoyed watching him work. I could sit for hours watching him draw or lay out fliers, talking to him the whole time.

For various reasons I decided we should get married and basically talked him into it. It wasn't a good idea and we were ill-matched. But one thing that came out of that marriage was a renewed interest in visual arts. I still thought I couldn't draw... but around that time computers and color printers were making their way into the general business world, and I found myself spending more and more time making presentations look good than actually caring about the content.

But the good salaries were all in the financial industry and since I was following the money I eventually ended up there... far from anything remotely creative. I made $80K a year... not bad for a chick with only a high school diploma. But I felt like I was dying. Till the Sun came along, till 9/11.. till I walked out on that world and never looked back.

And so now, knowing what my choices are I know that I belong on this creative path. I have to follow the voices. It's what I know. It's me at my most natural.

The Fabulous was saying that I should unleash the inner self. He knows she's there... he can see her. I told him it's a beast that can't go unanchored. And it's why I'm looking for my Ride or Die. I need to be around someone who's not afraid of the Bear Maiden, who can be her marker so that when she does go out roaring into the abyss, she can find her way back.

He does that for me, the Fabulous. But I'm not sure it's something he wants to do. And I'm not sure it's really something anybody can handle. But I'm not about to let that beast lose without an anchor. I know what it's capable of and what it's not. And it gets a little frustrating to be so close to finding that anchor and yet be so far...

...especially on a day like today.

1 comment:

professor said...

your anchor is your family...your sun...then one day you stumble on the most unlikely anchor...a cop, a cornerboy, a bartender...but because you already have an anchor, you can be free to explore, to be you...then slowly you put more weight on the new anchor and pretty soon you have your ride and die...